Keeping tomorrow's leaders today

Citi Canada implements program specifically for high-potentials

In today’s hypercompetitive business climate, staying in close contact with high-potentials and ensuring they have a development path is crucial. As many as 25 per cent of these employees plan on leaving their jobs within a year, according to a 2010 survey of 50,000 employees by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) in Arlington, Va. 

Major corporations spend an average of $3 million every year on leadership and development programs for high-potential employees, but 55 per cent of these employees will turn over in a five-year period, resulting in wasted dollars and an insufficient leadership bench, according to CEB. The inability to establish a strong, diverse leadership pipeline impairs bottom-line performance, since organizations with weak leadership generate roughly one-half the revenue and profit growth of those with strong leadership, it said. 

Losing this talent is also devastating to organizations because these people are delivering value today and are likely to deliver even more value tomorrow. 

So, how do leaders take a development-oriented approach and invest in high-potentials to ensure they’re not heading for the exits?

This was a question Citi Canada tackled head-on by implementing a program specifically for high-potential talent. Recognizing the importance of building a pipeline of leaders with the potential to move into roles across the Canadian franchise of the global financial institution, Citi’s HR department launched the Accelerated Canadian Talent (ACT) program in 2013. 

Targeted towards employees at the vice-president and senior vice-president level in all business lines, the year-long program provides about 15 employees — at the 3,000-employee Canadian company — with a comprehensive learning experience designed to enhance leadership capabilities.  

Participants in the program are selected through a talent review process where Citi’s senior leaders engage in dialogue about top talent, calibrate various points of view and come to agreement on the participants of the program.

High-potential employees start the program with an in-depth, 360-degree review and resulting IDP (individual development plan) for the duration of the program so they maximize strengths and work on areas of development. 

A key element of the program is the opportunity to gain exposure to senior leaders including Citi Canada’s CEO and members of the Citi Canada board of directors. Participants also garner access to assigned mentors from the senior leadership team to guide their development through the duration of the program. They are offered coaching on personal branding and executive presence as well as project management training — all delivered through external consultants. 

There is also a corporate social responsibility aspect to the program in which the high-potential participants are able to contribute to and make an impact on Citi’s key charitable partners in a meaningful way. 

Another critical component of the program is the assignment of an organization-wide strategy project lead by senior business sponsors, which allows participants to apply and heighten their skills in project management, team collaboration, financial analytics, client assessment and presentation skills. 

At the end of the program, the participants present their project results to the CEO and the leadership team. And recommendations from the previous year’s project assignment have been incorporated into the business strategy.

Now in its second year, the program reinforces the key talent goal of having top-tier talent in Citi’s most critical roles. And the proof is in the numbers: Thirty per cent of first-year participants have been promoted to new roles or received lateral transfers to new roles. Others are being tracked to ensure their individual development plans are being realized.

The ACT program has provided an immediate career benefit for the participants in addition to a lasting benefit gained through the connectivity of the participants in creating a network with one another. This is demonstrated in the relationships developed through the program as well as the continued interaction seen after the program. 

For Citi, the program has ensured that its high-potential employees remain engaged and are developing today into leaders for tomorrow.

Christine Discola is the HR officer at Citi Canada in Toronto. She conceptualized and launched the bank’s ACT program with Aleta Froemmel, senior vice-president of HR at Citi Canada.

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